Every church is looking for more volunteers. From the front door to the sanctuary, volunteers greet guests, take care of children, make the coffee, run the sound system, and more. The problem most churches face is a small contingent of dedicated yet exhausted volunteers with many attendees sitting on the sidelines.
There are many theories as to why more people don't serve. They're too busy, they don't know where to start, they're afraid of committing to too much, etc. Those may be valid reasons, however, each can be overcome by focusing on your current volunteers first. It's tempting to ignore those who're serving faithfully in an effort to recruit more help. However, if you'll invest in your current volunteers, they'll begin to recruit for you. After all, don't you recommend a great organization to your friends based on your own experience? Well, your volunteers are the same way.
So, how do you make serving at your church an incredible, I-have-to-get-my-friends-involved, type of experience? Here are seven tips to get you started:
#1: Tap into each individual's talents and passions
There are business owners, artists, carpenters, mechanics, writers, doctors, and others in your congregation who'd love to use their gifts to serve their church. Unfortunately, their talents are often ignored and we ask an executive to be an usher and nothing else. Now, regardless of what you do for a living you should be willing to serve in any area of the church. However, if you need a kids room decorated wouldn't you want to tap into the creative genius of an artist who would love to donate her time and talent to her church? Of course!
Find out what your volunteers love to do and are talented at doing. Then find ways to match each person up with a volunteer role based on that information. You can't always line that up perfectly, but people appreciate it when you recognize their talents and make the effort.
#2: Provide training, clear instructions, and expectations
I've yet to meet someone who didn't want to do a good job. I have met several people who weren't doing a good job. One of the main reasons why volunteers get frustrated or don't meet your expectations is because they don't know what the "win" looks like for their role. Invest time upfront to provide training and clear expectations.
#3: Appreciate them
We're all called to serve even without any expectation of appreciation or anything in return. Yet we all still like feeling appreciated and respond well to encouragement. If you want volunteers who'll recruit for you, let them know how much you appreciate their hard work. Thank them during the team meeting before service, send hand-written thank you notes, host volunteer appreciation nights, or give them a shout-out on social media. You don't have to spend a ton of money or effort here, just consider how you'd like to be treated if you were working for free and act accordingly.
#4: Respect their time and other commitments
Your volunteers have job responsibilities and family commitments too, so please respect their time when asking them to serve. That means asking them to signup 2-3 weeks in advance of a special event instead of the week before. This also includes starting and finishing the work or training session on time. They'll be more likely to continue serving and will recruit others if they know you'll respect their time.
#5: Have fun!
Ministry doesn't have to be solemn or nose-to-the-grindstone all the time. After all, God Himself invented laughter! So, have some fun with your volunteers. Host a cookout at the church and invite them and their families. Ask them to share a fun story from last week's service (you never know what the kids' workers will have to share!). Lighten up if you're taking things too seriously and enjoy serving alongside some great people.
#6: Cultivate a family atmosphere
Some individuals in your church are estranged from their family or simply live far away from them. They're looking for family within their local church. A great way to meet that need is to treat volunteers like an extension of your family.
#7: Take care of them when life gets bumpy
Unfortunately, we've all seen our volunteers go through difficult issues. From illnesses to job losses, those are moments where we need to step up and take care of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Develop a family-oriented culture so when a volunteer needs help, the rest of the team pitches in to meet that need.
Connecting people to your church through serving is part of discipleship. By investing the time to implement these concepts, you'll reap the benefits of motivated volunteers who'll be your best recruiters.
Deborah Wipf is the President & Founder of Velocity Ministry Management; a company dedicated to serving ministry leaders by helping them increase their ministry impact.
Over the last ten years, Deborah has worked in the for-profit arena developing the skills needed to pursue her passion. She worked for Deloitte Consulting in their Strategy & Operations group and most recently, for Williams, as a project manager and risk manager. Deborah has a bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems along with the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential from the Project Management Institute. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the PMI Tulsa Chapter and volunteers at her church.
Read more from Deborah Wipf: The Volunteer Management Toolkit